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Thursday, May 23, 2024

EDSA, a century from now

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“Disastrous politics, social disunity and systemic poverty, corruption are some perennial problems that continue to pester Philippine society”

This week marks the 38th anniversary of the historic EDSA People Power Revolution, a peaceful uprising that overthrew the oppressive Marcos dictatorship on Feb. 25, 1986.

The events at EDSA were marked by spontaneity, as people from various walks of life—friends, families, colleagues, and classmates—united in response to Jaime Cardinal Sin’s impassioned plea broadcast over Radio Veritas.

However, the bravery exhibited in the face of military opposition was not merely impromptu but also rooted in a long-standing process of education and activism within schools, organizations, communities, and grassroots movements during the 1970s and 1980s.

As Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, observed, EDSA was a manifestation of individual “disclosure stories,” wherein people responded to the calls of both faith and nation, inspiring others to do the same.

But over the years, the understanding of EDSA People Power Revolution has suffered from oversimplification, tainted with misconceptions, or saddled with biases and worse outright lies that further muddy the real picture of what really happened on those fateful days of February 1986.

Understanding EDSA People Power necessitates recognizing the diverse struggles endured by various opposition factions in the nation, whether armed or unarmed.

Oversimplifying these struggles into a singular event and labeling the revolution as “peaceful and bloodless” would egregiously overlook their contributions and disrespect their sacrifices.

Ongoing political shifts and enduring social challenges have also consistently shaped and reshaped how people perceive EDSA.

Other factors, also affect how we see EDSA as an historical event, like ineffective political and socioeconomic structures, pervasive poverty, and systemic persistent injustice, stoking discontent and resuscitating the allure of authoritarianism.

The EDSA People Power movement, often seen as a watershed moment in our nation’s history, has faced significant challenges and critiques.

Despite its initial promise, many argue that it fell short of its objectives, and, as a nation, we continue to grapple with the complexities of safeguarding democracy.

Many are now saying EDSA was a disastrous failure; that nothing has changed for the systemic ills that plagued the nation in 1986 continue to exist.

Disastrous politics, social disunity and systemic poverty, corruption are some perennial problems that continue to pester Philippine society.

Yet a century from now, when the active participants of EDSA have come and gone, historians will judge EDSA in a better light, seeing the historic event with more objective eyes, devoid of biases, and political prejudices.

EDSA to this generation will be the shining moment of the Filipino people that took on a transformative shape, captivating and igniting inspiration for numerous regime shifts worldwide that signaled the end of Ferdinand Marcos’ autocratic rule, showcasing the enduring struggle spanning generations, beckoning Filipinos to seek justice for history’s wrongs and strive for a brighter tomorrow.

The 1986 People Power revolution to this generation will stand as a testament to the nation’s contribution to global culture and civilization, chiefly for its ability to dismantle a deeply entrenched and oppressive regime without sacrificing the life or dignity of any individual, regardless of allegiance. It served as a beacon of nonviolent political transformation, setting a precedent for peaceful change on a global scale.

EDSA was a momentous day when Filipinos united with unwavering courage and faith to reclaim democracy in their nation.

The collective strength of the people, converging at EDSA, led to the restoration of democracy in the Philippines, bringing an end to the oppressive Marcos regime.

(Editor’s Note: By official count, there were two million who participated in EDSA in 1986, when the Philippines had 56.11 million people, 7.09 million of whom were in the metropolis.)

During EDSA anniversaries, we like to chant “Never again! Never forget!”

The truth is that the terrible things that happened during the Marcos dictatorship has happened again, especially during the Duterte years, and continue today.

This is especially true about human rights violations which have persisted no matter who has been president of our country.

But while never again can sometimes ring hollow, never forget is something we must continue to chant with feelings.

And I am not talking about not forgetting the bad things even if that is important for accountability.

But let’s not forget the heroism of many Filipinos before, during, and after EDSA.

We must never forget that people took risks, sacrificed comforts and their lives to overthrow the dictatorship.

And in EDSA, millions did that not knowing that it will end peacefully, giving this country another chance.

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